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Jan 8, 2014

SMotW #87: visitor/employee parking separation

Security Metric of the Week #87: distance separating employee from visitor parking

Imagine your corporate security standards require that "Employee parking spaces must be physically distant from visitor parking spaces, separated by at least 100 paces". The rule might have been introduced in order to reduce risks such as employees covertly passing information to visitors between vehicles, or terrorists triggering vehicle bombs in the vicinity of key employees, or for some other reason (to be honest, we're not exactly sure of the basis - a common situation with big corporations and their thick rulebooks: the rationale often gets lost or forgotten in the mysts of time). Imagine also that senior management has determined that the security standards are important, hence compliance with the standards must be measured and reported across the corporation. Forthwith! 

Now picture yourself in the metrics workshop where someone proposes this very metric. They painstakingly point out the specific rule in the rulebook, noting that the distance between employee and visitor parking is something that can be measured easily on the site plans, or paced out in the parking lot. As far as they are concerned, this metric fits the bill. It is cheap, elegant even, hard to fake and easily verified. "If HQ wants compliance metrics, compliance metrics is what they'll jolly well get!"

It soon becomes abundantly clear that the proposer has ulterior motives. Rather than proactively supporting HQ, his cunning plan is to undermine the effort through passive resistance. A metric that technically fulfills the requirement while providing no useful information would be perfect!

As the group tries ever harder to dismiss the metric, so the proposer digs-in deeper until he is fully entrenched. By this stage, it is definitely "his" metric: he takes any hint of criticism personally, and seemingly has an answer for everything. Tempers fray as the heat exceeds the light output from the discussion.

PRAGMATIC to the rescue! In an attempt to defuse the situation, someone suggests working through the method and scoring the metric as a team effort. Dispassionately considering the PRAGMATIC criteria one by one, and allowing for the metric's plus points, leads to a final score of just 41% ... and a big thumbs-down for this metric.